DJ Hero 2

After a year of hard work by our fantastic team at FreeStyleGames, DJ Hero 2 is about to hit the shelves in October.

For the launch of a DJ game, who better to become the game’s ambassador than superstar DJ Tiesto.

DJ Hero 2 is yet another title that makes me proud to be part of the FreeStyleGames team and have my name associated with such a top quality product and studio.

Further DJ Hero 2 videos.

There is also a demo on the Xbox marketplace.

Children’s book illustration

I’d like to make a shameless plug for my sister’s website, she is a budding children’s book illustrator!

Check out her awesome drawings here.

A new anime music video

Over the last few months I’ve been quite busy with work – DJ Hero 2 coming out in the fall – so to keep myself sane over the past few weeks I created this as a bit of ‘creative release’ during the bug fixing stage of the project.

I am actually very happy with it, technically it is the best music video I’ve produced and probably also the best combination I’ve chosen in a while.

Nexus One

I recently bit the bullet and ordered myself a new phone – a brand spanking new HTC/Google Nexus One.

These are a few comments after having the phone a few weeks:

The good stuff:

  • The screen is fantastic, very very sharp and excellent colour range
  • The phone is really fast most of the time
  • Contacts management is excellent, although the facebook integration needs a bit of improvement
  • The integration with google apps and services is fantastic
  • The range of Android apps available is pretty good
  • I like the live wallpapers, I’m looking forward to some more nice third party ones coming out
  • The web browser is excellent – I’m really looking forward to the full flash support coming over the next few months
  • Battery life – for this class of phone its excellent, I am able to get a full day out of it on light-moderate use.

The bad stuff:

  • The screen is hard to see outside
  • The bezel around the screen is too small considering the screen is touch sensitive right to the edge – if you hold the phone wrong and touch the edges it either ignores your input or clicks in a random location. This means its practically impossible to use the phone one handed
  • The ‘pattern lock’ screen is utterly useless – when you draw the pattern you can see the smudges on the screen of the pattern. There seems to be no option to use a standard PIN/button combination
  • The software still seems a bit flakey – but it is a brand new version, so hopefully this will get better in time
  • The facebook app leaves a lot to be desired
  • Lots of bugs related to the Messaging app – it seems to pick up the first word of some messages and make this the title/sender, so I have a number of messages with random titles

Things I want:

  • An Android DropBox app
  • Flash support
  • Multi-touch support – the phone’s hardware supports it
  • The ability to specify a border for the touch screen where outputs outside it are ignored – so I can use my phone one handed.

Some of my picks for the ‘best of android’:

  • Locale
  • Spotify
  • Last.fm
  • SMS Popup
  • SMS Backup
  • ShopSavvy
  • Shazam
  • Quickpedia
  • Places Directory
  • Meebo IM
  • KeePassDroid
  • Jewels
  • handyCalc/handyConverter/handyCurrency
  • Flood-It!
  • Daft Machine
  • ConnectBot
  • beebPlayer
  • Bebbled
  • Barcode Scanner
  • Alarming!
  • Advanced Task Killer
  • Astrid

Pay-as-you-go or Contract?

A phone like this consumes a massive amount of data, so my existing PAYG Three deal had to go – I hardly ever had a signal anyway. I contemplated a few choices, looking at contracts and what not. I eventually settled on two options, the T-mobile PAYG unlimited internet and texts SIM only deal for £10/mo, and the O2 deal which is similar but for £15/mo. After looking at the T&Cs and very very fine print, I ruled out the O2 deal as it only allowed for 200mb/mo ‘fair use’ – Fair? No… So I went with T-Mobile. While browsing their site I stumbled across another deal – a 6-month internet booster. The deal gives you 6 months of ‘unlimited’ (1gb/mo) internet on your phone for a £20 once off payment. So essentially £3.30 a month for unlimited internet. SCORE!

Closing Thoughts

Overall I really like this phone, it has a few annoying gripes that hopefully will get worked out, but its got a good solid foundation to build on with future iterations of the firmware. If you are after an Android phone, this is the one to get.

Mini aside

Apple announced their ‘iPad’ this week. Considering the hype this was a monumental let down. Essentially the iPad is a giant iPod Touch. It’s not even a bigger iPhone because it can’t make phone calls! There are plenty of rants about this device which I won’t repeat, however the one thing I think was their biggest mistake – no multitasking. What were they thinking

I think people are going to buy this expecting a netbook style device with a touch screen and be incredibly disappointed. I have been considering a tablet style device for a while and was hoping that the Apple Tablet would be the one, it’s not – in fact my shiny new phone does a better job – it will fit in my pocket!

2009

As 2009 comes to a close, its nice to look back and say thanks to all the companies, products and services that made a difference this year to both my professional and personal life. So without further rambling:

FreeStyleGames

FSG has been an incredible place to work, and November marked my 3rd year with the company. We shipped DJ Hero in October and the game was more or less univerally praised for being a refreshing take on the music genre. The game won several awards including best soundtrack. The studio also expanded taking up both more floor space and more talent. Hopefully we can keep things up in 2010.

Drop Box

Drop Box changed the way I used my PC in 2009. It put my most useful information in the cloud keeping it safe and accessible. Combined with KeePass you have an impegnable password safe to allow you to have a different password for every site you visit and help protect your online identity.

Spotify

Spotify was probably the biggest innovation in music since the MP3. It marked the turning point of the music industry from ‘let’s sue our customers‘ to ‘let’s give our customers what they have been requesting for a decade‘. Immediate streaming of a very large catalogue of music (including the new stuff) has pretty much left my MP3 collection to get lonely. Of course the industry is still screwing the artists, but they’ve been doing that for a very long time, so this is hardly anything new.

Steam

Steam has finally managed to do for the PC what the Xbox 360 did for console gaming. It has created a unified hub for gamers to connect through. It has also delivered us the digital delivery system that many of us had been pining for. Couple this with the recent batch of steam sales which brought many games that didn’t deserve attention at their full price firmly into reach and you have a very attractive package.

The rest

VLC – The play everything media player that I could not do without that lets me skip the annoying intro videos, copyright screens and piracy inducing anti-piracy videos on my legally bought DVDs.

Firefox – Chrome came close, but Firefox is still the best web browser around.

Torchlight - This little RPG game took me by complete suprise. I’ve spent days playing this game and it’s still got a lot of kick in it!

Google Wave

Yay, I got a google wave invite!

If you’ve got a wave account, you can send me a message using the box below!

Read the rest of this entry »

Passwords

I’m getting increasingly annoyed at retarded password policies.

There are a few things that particularly annoy me:

  1. Emailing your passwords to you, or asking you to confirm passwords over the phone
  2. Sites that limit you to a arbitary password length or character set
  3. Sites that limit you to an arbitary password length and truncate the password when creating it, but do not truncate the password when entering it.
  4. Requirements to change your password regularly
  5. Not salting password hashes

The first one is particularly bad. It indicates that they are storing your password in a way that is reversible, meaning if the site gets hacked, your password is wide open as well. If they ask you to confirm your password over the phone, and I’ve had this from two companies, this is the height of security ignorance, because it means that they are storing your passwords in plain text and is completely visible to the operator taking the call.

Number two is just plain annoying. If you have a password setup that is longer, it means your password is not as secure as it could be. If I want to set my password to “{Y`>v[S]e7,f&HA8ZUK]rdbX-QFqt?t9!}a4z<wmgRa’YB25GYF:HBdK1V)/” then I should be able to. Number three is not only annoying, but can actually lock you out of critical accounts. A good example of this that prompted me to write this post was the Verified by Visa website. The website has a restriction on the length of passwords you can use, but it does not tell you this. Given its a fairly sensitive login, I naturally wanted a strong password for it – so I generated a completely random alphanumeric username and password. After accepting the password and confirming my other details the site happily confirmed my registration. Later that week I attempted to log in, only to find my password no longer worked. You see the site had truncated my password as I entered it, leaving my password some number of characters shorter. A password reset later to a shorter password and the problem was resolved.

Number four seems to be a fairly common problem in enterprises. At its basic level it boils down to top level IT management not understanding that imposing overly harsh restrictions on user passwords just leads to creative workarounds. See this slashdot post for some examples of this.

Number five is more of a technical issue than a policy, but simply storing passwords as an MD5 sum or some other basic hash is just not good enough. Take the following website. It provides a service to reverse an MD5 hash to a string by having a list of passwords listed against their hashes. It does not crack the password, you cannot ‘crack’ MD5 sums, because they do not contain the original data. However if the password is common enough, it can be reversed by being able to match one to the other. Salting helps to reduce this by mangling the resulting hash to something less common that is unique to the site.

Its time to enforce a standard password system across the web. Google, you want ideas of how to make the web better? Heres my suggestion. The standard should specify a set of requirements that all websites, enterprises and services should follow. It should apply to online and offline services.

Here are my suggestions for a spec:

  1. No upper password limit or limit on complexity – want a unicode character in your password, be my guest!
  2. A reasonable lower limit on password length with warning to the user when below the recommended length
  3. No password retirement policites – ever!
  4. Optional support for physical key generating devices such as RSA SecurID
  5. No plain text passwords, passwords saved in hash form with unique salt per user per site
  6. Client side password salting and hashing to not send raw passwords over unsecured links

As a user there are plenty of things you can do to guard against unsecure sites. My number one suggestion is the following free combination: DropBox and mobile KeePass. KeePass is a very useful tool that both generates and stores passwods securely. When used in combination with online service DropBox it makes a great tool into an essential one. DropBox provides two things – syncing of your passwords between multiple machines (work, home, laptop etc), and a history and backup in case of accidents. If you accidentally delete a password or your hard disk dies, DropBox has your back! To use it effectively use a different password for every site and store it in keypass, and especially never use a password that is the same as your email password.

Google Wave

Google just announced its newest product ‘Wave’ that is coming this year. Wave has the ability to change the way everybody communicates, forever, in much the same way that email did when it became common place.

It combines aspects of Wikis, IM, Email and version control into a single product that changes the way people communicate. I can already see how it would make communicating with family, friends and coworkers much more fun and immediate. Click the link for more info and a loooooong video demonstration of it in action. If you are not excited about it, you don’t know enough about it yet.

Google Wave

DJ Hero

Its now days until E3, the biggest event of the year in the gaming world, and our game DJ Hero, is finally showing its face and announcing details.

We also announced the involvement of Jay-Z and Eminem to the project to join DJ Shadow, DJ Z-Trip and DJ AM – including a limited edition version of the game featuring Jay-Z and Eminem. More info here.

Its great to finally be able to reveal some details about the project that I have been working on for a good long while now and am absolutely thrilled at the response that the game has got so far. Keep your eye out for more details!

Official DJ Hero website (now with song previews, video clips and pre-order information)

DJ Hero Tweet

A new AMV

I just finished my latest AMV: ‘Welcome to my insanity’.

See it below!

Anime: Welcome to NHK
Song: Faktion – My Insanity

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